Guest poster: Paul Blumenthal of the Sunlight Foundation:
The controversy around the firing of several U.S. attorneys in December has dominated the news coming out of Congress this week and Congresspedia’s staff and citizen editors have been busy tracking developments on our thorough page on the subject. Of central importance to the controversy is the issue of why those eight particular U.S. attorneys were fired.
I’ve been looking into the analyses of the documents released by the Justice Department, and they show that the attorneys were at least partially judged by their willingness to toe-the-line — or, as one internal administration document put it, to be good "Bushies" — and were deemed expendable if they moved too far from administration priorities. In the case of some of the fired attorneys, it appears that the offense committed may have been their investigations into Republican officials, including members of Congress, in the lead-up to the 2006 congressional elections.
Here is a look at four of the attorneys at issue and their respective corruption investigations:
- Carol Lam, U.S. Attorney for the District of San Diego: In 2005, Lam sent Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) to jail for eight years and eight months for multiple felonies including tax evasion and accepting bribes. Cunningham, a leading Republican member of the Appropriations Committee, had been receiving bribes from Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who was also convicted by Lam, and allegedly from Brent Wilkes, another defense contractor and huge campaign contributor to President Bush’s 2004 reelection committee. Days before she was forced to resign, Lam brought indictments against Wilkes and his friend, the former #3 at the C.I.A., K. Dusty Foggo, on multiple felony counts including conspiracy and wire fraud. Lam’s investigation into Wilkes was leading her to examine his close relationship with other California Republicans including the powerful former Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). Recent revelations also show that a contract given to Wade by the Office of the Vice President may be connected to a yacht purchased by Wade for Cunningham.
- Paul Charlton, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona: In late October 2006, two liberal blogs revealed -- later confirmed by the Associated Press and the Washington Post -- that U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton had opened an investigation into a land deal made by Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) and a business partner, James Sandlin. Days after this investigation came to light, the New York Times reported that the Attorney's office had also opened an investigation into whether Renzi introduced legislation that benefited a military contractor who donated heavily to his campaigns and employs his father.
- Daniel Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada: On February 15, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Daniel Bogden was investigating the newly elected Governor of Nevada, former-Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.), for allegedly accepting unreported gifts and/or payments from a campaign contributor and earmark recipient, Warren Trepp. The investigation examined the relationship between the former congressman and Trepp between the years 1997-2007. The Journal did not report when the investigation was opened.
- Bud Cummins, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arkansas: In January 2006, Cummins opened an investigation into "allegations that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt had rewarded GOP supporters with lucrative contracts to run the state's driver's license offices." Cummins handled the case because the U.S. Attorneys for Missouri recused themselves over conflict of interest concerns. Cummins stated that he was told he would be fired in June as he was wrapping up the case. Cummins eventually brought no indictments against Gov. Blunt, the son of powerful Republican Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Cummins has since questioned whether he was fired for opening an investigation into a powerful Republican in a battleground state.